We know Texas is a very well known state for being a place for filming & where local actors can become stars. Sadly we know Texas has seen its share of filming tragedies too; for example look at the case of Martha Mansfield. However there was another tragedy that affected Texas over 100 years, one that would live on in infamy. And that would be the tragic case of the Texas stuntman, Ormer Locklear.

João Antonio Franz via YouTube
João Antonio Franz via YouTube

Who was Ormer Locklear & what did he do in Hollywood?

Born in Greenville, Texas on October 28, 1891, Ormer Locklear was a former World War I pilot would flew for the United Army Air Service. Ormer would learn to fly at Camp Dick in Austin, Texas before transferring to Fort Worth's Camp Barron to fully complete his training as a pilot. Ormer would leave the United Army in May 7, 1919 to pursue a career of barnstorming; performing wild stunts involving planes. Sometimes the pilots would purposely crash the plane, but they would come out with little to no injuries.

João Antonio Franz via YouTube
João Antonio Franz via YouTube

A month later, Ormer would have begin to have a career in Hollywood as an actor/stuntman by first appearing in the 1919 film, The Great Air Robbery. He would then be cast in the 1920 film, The Skywayman, and here's where the story takes a dark turn...

João Antonio Franz via YouTube
João Antonio Franz via YouTube

Ormer Locklear's final days would come during the filming of The Skywayman

Ormer would be the main starring role as Captain Norman Craig; a pilot who attempt to regain his memory after suffering amnesia from being shell-shocked due to the war. His character would pursue Russian jewel thieves and the film ends in a climatic aerial chase with Ormer's plane going into a tailspin and crashing, before finally his character regains his memory... That's what was SUPPOSED to happen. Sadly, it did not.

On August 2, 1920, during the filming of the chase scene, Ormer and his co-pilot, Milton "Skeets" Elliot, would attempt the tailspin for the movie, but sadly they were blinded by the camera lights and would crash into the ground. Ormer & Milton died instantly. Ormer was 28 years old, Milton was 26.

According to many reports, and Ormer's girlfriend, Viola Dana, they kept the crash scene in the final release of the film when it was released on September 5, 1920. This became one of the very first films to feature the onscreen deaths of one of its actors.

Because this movie was recorded over 100 years, the movie is considered to be lost media. However, Viola was interviewed for a British tv show called "Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film" & would talk about Ormer's career and accident on Episode 5 entitled "Hazards of the Game".

Thankfully on screen filming fatalities like these are rare but they still do happen on occasion; Other examples would include the deaths of Brandon Lee from the Crow or Vic Morrow from The Twilight Zone.

It's very unlikely that footage of Ormer & Milton's crash would ever see the light of day, but we at least can remember their lives & the risks they were willing to take for making stars out of themselves.

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